Tuesday, January 13, 2009

On my turntable: The Velvet Underground & Nico

Here we have another album that I bought on CD some 10 years ago, after it placed at #13 on Mojo Magazine's top 100 albums of all time. While I thought the tunes were pleasant enough at the time, I was in the process of losing interest in the cold plastic-ness of CDs, so I put the disc aside knowing that eventually I would buy the LP, which I finally did a couple of weeks ago.

In the past decade I've not seen any album receive as many different re-issues as The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967). I've encountered audiophile pressings, colored vinyl, a mono version, and a version with deluxe repackaging that features a repro of the original peel-off banana sticker. The copy pictured above is a standard vinyl re-issue, priced to sell at around $10.99 (new).

In my opinion, albums such as this belong on standard vinyl. The dirty garage band sound of The Velvet Underground & Nico simply does not need any gloss from high-end audiophile or digital re-mastering. It is what it is -- early punk played on occasionally out-of-tune guitars, and sometimes oddly interpreted by Nico's German accent (I never tire of hearing her sing "What a clown" in "Femme Fatale"). To top it off, the record is packaged in one of the most iconic album covers in rock history, which, like the music, is enjoyed best in LP format.

Wikipedia: The Velvet Underground & Nico

Video: Velvet Underground w/Nico: "Femme Fatale":


Jay said...

C. R. A. P.

This is the Dave Matthews or Moldy Peaches of the late 60's. Anybody that tries to make this sound like it's a great album is defending crap. Sometimes crap sounds ok on LP, but this is still CRAP! Whoopeee, Andy whats his name drew a banana on the cover. It is still CRAP! It was the flavor of the month that got to be flavor of the year, and that became flavor of the decade, but the flavor still is CRAP!

Jeff said...

Enough with the Minnesota Nice - how do you really feel?

Mark said...

Well, it was a complete and abject failure when it was released. I saw dozens of used copies selling for 99 cents all through the tail end of the 60's and well into the 70's. It was never the flavor fo the month, and Mr. Warhol's reputation at that time was so odious as to hinder whatever the record's sales could have been.

One should always try to put oneself in the position of hearing music like this as if for the first time. There certainly was no precedent for music sounding like this at when it was released. None at all. Nor for the impossible mix of the sacred and the profane that this record embodies. Certainly, you've heard it done to death since the mid-seventies, when it was finally re-discovered by the, ahem, masses. And then it influenced everything.

Since it could be had for 99 cents, I bought this as a young teen. It both attracted and scared me. Lou's beautiful songs like Sunday Morning, I'll be Your Mirror and Femme Fatale rested uneasily against Venus In Furs, Run Run Run, and of course, the majesty that is Heroin.

That little bit of footage is a wonder. I'm thinking it's around the time of Nico's Desertshore album. Judging by her clothes, and her back up band (Lou Reed AND John Cale), I believe it was filmed at one of her London Roundhouse gigs.

It's fucking beautiful.

Jeff said...

Jay - I *knew* you would hate this album, even though I'm pretty certain you've never heard it. Fair enough tho - I know I'm guilty of bashing stuff I've not heard before!

Mark - thanks for your comments. I admit I used to be annoyed with Nico because of how she was just planted into the group by Warhol, but it's actually an interesting part of their story. And a tragic story at that, with the heroin and all that. I agree about the clip - it's pretty sweet!